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Urban Lanes

Encroachment Policies For Urban Lanes

This Policy, adopted by Council on April 24, 2013, applies to all City-owned lanes located in the urban area as defined in Schedule B of the Official Plan.

1. Classification

Urban lanes are classified under the Urban Lanes Management Policies as follows:

Class A: Lanes with municipal maintenance, at intervals and services levels that may vary.

Class B: Lanes without municipal maintenance.

  • Type 1: Lanes that provide sole vehicular access to property fronting on the lane.
  • Type 2: Lanes that provide direct pedestrian and/or vehicular access to and from residential communities, recreation areas, bus routes, schools, churches, and other public uses, and as a link between dead end streets for emergency and pedestrian purposes only.
  • Type 3: Lanes that provide sole vehicular access to private garages, rear yards and commercial/industrial loading areas.
  • Type 4: Lanes that provide an alternate access to an existing property or garage or commercial/industrial loading areas.
  • Type 5: Lanes where utility services such as hydro and Bell, gas, water etc. are located, either above or below ground.
  • Type 6: Lanes that are occupied by abutting property owners.
  • Type 7: Other lanes which do not fall under any of the criteria above, i.e. unused, undeveloped, used for parking purposes, etc.

The City has sole and absolute discretion in classifying and reclassifying its Lanes, and in approving any request to reclassify a Lane.

 2. Encroachments

a. Occupation by abutting owners

Occupation of lane rights-of-way by abutting property owners will in all cases be considered encroachments under the Encroachment By-law.

b. Encroachments prohibited

Encroachments on Type 1, 2, 3, and 4 lanes will not be tolerated. Those will be subject to the normal enforcement provisions of the Encroachment By-law (2003-446).

c. Encroachments identified

Where Type 5, 6 or 7 lanes have been occupied by abutting owners over the years and there are no immediate plans to use them as public highways or gain access to them for the purpose of utility maintenance or repairs, and where such encroachments existed as of December 31st 2012:

      1. The City will not proactively pursue the removal of encroachments;
      2. When such encroachments are discovered, the City will charge the minimum encroachment annual fee as provided in Schedule A of By-law 2003-446.
      3. The owners of such encroachments will be required to describe the encroachment by the use of a Part on a Reference Plan, at their expense.
      4. No new encroachments on Type 5, 6 or 7 lanes will be permitted.

d. Encroachment removals

Where, in the context of a development or redevelopment where vehicular access from the lane is required under the Zoning By-law or deemed to represent the appropriate urban design approach, the City may at its discretion require the removal of encroachments from the lane right-of-way under the authority of the Encroachment By-law and the removal clauses in the Encroachment Agreements. In such cases:

      1. The re-establishment of access on a previously untraveled lane does not obligate the City to winter maintain the lane;
      2. The owner(s) obtaining such lane access may be required to enter into a Maintenance and Liability Agreement with the City;
      3. The owner(s) obtaining such lane access may be required to survey the lane, or portion of lane, upon which access is being re-established;
      4. The owner(s) obtaining such lane access may be required to remove, at their expense, any and all vegetation from the right-of-way as may be required to re-establish access;
      5. The removal of encroachments is at the sole risk and expense of the owner(s) of such encroachments.

e. Title Searches

When title searches are addressed to the City, including those performed by title insurance firms, for properties where encroachments on lanes may have taken place, a standard mention of "The City has identified a public lane associated with this property" will be provided.

Overview

The City of Ottawa has 64 kilometres of rear lanes, mostly inside the Greenbelt. Rear lanes can be an important component of a neighbourhood’s structure from the standpoint of urban design, transportation, and access to property and in some cases utilities.

To find out more information about a lane in your neighbourhood, including ownership and classification, please contact us.

Contact Information

For more information about the Urban Lane Policy, please contact us by:

Urban Lanes Management Policies

This Policy, adopted by Council on April 24, 2013, applies to all City-owned lanes located in the urban area as defined in Schedule B of the Official Plan.

1.1 Types of Lanes

1.1.1 Definitions

Lane means a public highway that provides a secondary means of access from a public street to abutting lots.

Closed Lane means a public Lane that has been closed by City By-law or by Judge's Order and remains City property.

Maintained Lane means a Lane that is actively maintained by the City, at intervals and service levels that may vary according to the maintenance category under which the Lane may be classified.

Utility means an entity operating within a regulated industry that has been given the express right or subsequent legal duty to supply the general public with a product, commodity, or service such as natural gas, electricity, water, waste water, sewer, rail service, telephone, telecommunication or internet service.

1.1.2 Classification

Lanes in the urban area are classified as follows:

Class A: Lanes with municipal maintenance, at intervals and services levels that may vary.

Class B: Lanes without municipal maintenance.

Type 1: Lanes that provide sole vehicular access to property fronting on the lane.
Type 2: Lanes that provide direct pedestrian and/or vehicular access to and from residential communities, recreation areas, bus routes, schools, churches, and other public uses, and as a link between dead end streets for emergency and pedestrian purposes only.
Type 3: Lanes that provide sole vehicular access to private garages, rear yards and commercial/industrial loading areas.
Type 4: Lanes that provide an alternate access to an existing property or garage or commercial/industrial loading areas.
Type 5: Lanes where utility services such as hydro and Bell, gas, water etc. are located, either above or below ground.
Type 6: Lanes that are occupied by abutting property owners.
Type 7: Other lanes which do not fall under any of the criteria above, i.e. unused, undeveloped, used for parking purposes, etc.

The City has sole and absolute discretion in classifying and reclassifying its Lanes, and in approving any request to reclassify a Lane.

1.1.3 Database

Lane locations and classifications are to be recorded on a digital database and kept up to date. The work on this database will be ongoing for a number of years, as the information that has to be compiled originates from a number of sources that, in some cases, only exist on paper. The public can obtain information on lane locations and classifications by writing to lanes@ottawa.ca or calling 3-1-1.

1.1.4 Access by City or Utilities

    1. Where utilities or City piped infrastructure are located along a Lane of any Type, the City or the Utility may, at any time and without notice, access the Lane, excavate the Lane, remove vegetation from the Lane, and reinstate the Lane.
    2. Where utilities or City piped infrastructure are located along a Closed Lane that has been sold and upon which an easement has been granted in favour of the City and/or Utility, the City or the Utility may, after giving notice to the land owner, access the Lane, excavate the Lane, and remove vegetation from the Lane.

 1.2 Criteria for Retention and Divestment

1.2.1 Rationale

The City owns a significant number of lanes whose status and circumstances vary. Abutting land owners may make application to the City to close a lane or a portion thereof, and sell the land to them.

1.2.2 Status of Lanes

Pursuant to the provisions of the Surveys Act, every "road allowance, highway, street, lane, walk and common shown on a plan of subdivision shall be deemed to be a public road, highway, street, lane, walk and common, respectively". Pursuant to the provisions of the Municipal Act, 2001 and its predecessor legislation, title to a highway laid out on a plan of subdivision vests with the municipality having jurisdiction over the highway.

Pursuant to section 16 of the Limitations Act, it is not possible to obtain possessory title to lands that are owned by the Crown or a municipality which have been laid out as a public highway. This is subject, however, to the qualification that "nothing in this section shall be deemed to affect or prejudice any right, title or interest acquired by any person before the 13th day of June, 1922."

In the Ontario Court of Appeal decision, Household Realty Corp. Ltd. v. Hilltop Mobile Home Sales Ltd., (1982), 37 O.R. (2d), 508, the court considered the qualification in section 16 of the Limitations Act and concluded that prior to June 13th 1922, one could obtain possessory title to a highway only if the following elements could be established:

    1. the highway was laid out on a plan of subdivision or otherwise acquired by the municipality from a private owner of land (as opposed to being an original road allowance laid out by the Crown surveyors);
    2. the highway had not been opened and assumed by the municipality and/or actually used by the public for access purposes; and
    3. the person asserting possessory title was in actual, exclusive and continuous possession of the highway for ten years prior to June 13th 1922, with the intent to exclude the municipality from possession.

1.3.3 Policies for Retention and Divestment

The laneway network is an important municipal asset that should not be considered for sale. Lanes are public highways under the Municipal Act and are City property in the same manner as municipally-owned streets, roads and sidewalks are City property. They are not a source of revenue for the City and they are not a land reserve for abutting landowners.

Despite the foregoing, there are cases where it makes sense for the City to support the closure of lanes where their circumstances clearly indicate that there is no realistic way for them to serve a public purpose either immediately or in the future.

When an application to close a Lane is received by the City, the following criteria shall be used by the Planning and Growth Management Department to determine whether the application should be accepted or refused.

1.3.3.1 Retention
    1. All Type 1, 2, 3, and 4 lanes are considered significant municipal assets and shall not be closed, except in the context of a redevelopment application that affects more than 75% of the lands on both sides of the portion of lane in question, provided that the following criteria are met:
      1. The development application demonstrates alternative development scenarios that retain the lane and the City accepts, at its sole and absolute discretion, that those scenarios are not desirable; and
      2. The lane in question is not part of a continuous network of lanes (of whatever classification) serving multiple city blocks, where the closure of a portion of this lane network would interrupt its continuity or shorten it by 25% or more; and
      3. There is no adverse impact on the access to the properties on either side of the remainder of the lands served by the subject portion of lane; and
      4. All other property owners with access to the lane concur with the closure.
    2. Type 5 lanes are considered significant municipal assets if they also fulfill any of the functions of Type 1, 2, 3 or 4 lanes and are subject to the provisions in (a) above with respect to applications to close them.
1.3.3.2 Divestment
    1. Applications to close any Type 1, 2, 3, and 4 lanes may only be considered by the City if all of the following criteria are met:
      1. A redevelopment application is submitted which affects more than 75% of the lands on both sides of the portion of lane in question; and
      2. There is no adverse impact on the access to the properties on either side of the remainder of the lands served by the subject portion of lane; and
      3. All other property owners with access to the lane concur with the closure; and
      4. The development application demonstrates alternative development scenarios that retain the lane and the City accepts, at its sole and absolute discretion, that those scenarios are not desirable; and
      5. The lane in question is not part of a continuous network of lanes (of whatever classification) serving multiple city blocks, where the closure of a portion of this lane network would interrupt its continuity or shorten it by 25% or more.
    2. Applications to close any Type 5 lanes may only be considered by the City if the following criteria are met:
      1. They do not fulfill, and are deemed incapable of fulfilling at any time in the future, any of the functions of Type 1, 2, 3 or 4 lanes; and
      2. The utilities located under, along or above the lane are
      • relocated at the applicant's expense in a way that is deemed acceptable to the City and to the Utilities; or
      • if utility relocation is deemed by the City or Utilities not to be feasible, an easement is granted in perpetuity to the City and to the Utilities to access the utility services for maintenance or any other purpose.

          c. Applications to close any Type 6 or 7 lanes may only be considered by the City if all of the following criteria are met:

      1. The lane in(c) question is not part of a continuous network of lanes (of whatever classification) serving multiple city blocks, where the closure of a portion of this lane network would interrupt its continuity or shorten it by 25% or more; and
      2. The City determines that it foresees no long term prospect for the lane to serve a public purpose; and
      3. The closure affects the totality of the lane's lands on the block that it serves and does not create land-locked or dead-end portions of lanes; and
      4. The entirety of the lane is purchased by the abutting owners; and
      5. The utilities located under, along or above the lane are
        1. relocated at the applicant's expense in a way that is deemed acceptable to the City and to the Utilities; or
        2. if utility relocation is deemed by the City or Utilities not to be feasible, an easement is granted in perpetuity to the City and to the Utilities to access the utility services for maintenance or any other purpose.

          d. Consultation

    • An application to close a street/lane is subject to public consultation. However, an application to close an untravelled street/lane does not require on-site signs.

e. Applications to close portions of lanes of any Type that have been left land-locked by previous closures, and where the City  determines that there is no reasonable prospect for re-establishing a continuous lane to regain access to the land-locked portion, shall be approved, subject to the retention of any easement that may exist or the establishment of any easement that may be required.

Urban Lane Standards

Direction is given to the Planning and Growth Management Department to establish the following standards in all applicable documents, guidelines, manuals and practices, and to the Public Works Department to incorporate these standards into all applicable documents, guidelines, manuals and practices.

Standards

1.1 New Lanes

When considering new lanes, the City will require the following standards, illustrated at subsection 1.3 below:

    1. Residential Lanes:
      1. The minimum lane right-of-way width shall be 6 metres.
      2. There shall be snow storage spaces measuring a minimum of 4 m2 off the lane, on both sides, at intervals of no less than 15 m. This space shall form part of the lane right-of-way.
      3. Where lanes are paved (either with asphalt or concrete), the pavement shall slope in toward the centre of the lane and stormwater facilities shall be provided.
      4. Where lanes are paved, minimum pavement width shall be 4 metres located at the centre of the lane right-of-way.
      5. Residential lanes may be designated for one-way traffic or two-way traffic.
      6. Where lanes are not paved, stormwater facilities will not be required if it is demonstrated that stormwater can be managed with the proposed ground cover.
      7. Infrastructure corridors, including utilities and hydro, shall consider locating on the lane in first priority. Utility poles shall not extend more than 30 cm into a lane right-of-way.
      8. Garbage removal from the lane may be considered if it is operationally feasible or preferable.
    2. Commercial or Mixed-Use Lanes
      1. The minimum lane right-of-way width shall be 8 metres, with a minimum paved area of 6 metres.
      2. Lanes shall be paved (either with asphalt or concrete). The pavement shall slope in toward the centre of the lane and stormwater facilities shall be provided.
      3. Commercial and mixed-use lanes shall be designated for two-way traffic.
      4. Infrastructure corridors, including utilities and hydro, shall consider locating on the lane in first priority.
      5. Garbage removal shall be from the lane.

1.2 Existing Lanes

      1. The standards outlined in section 1.1 shall be considered applicable to existing public lanes when such lanes are being widened.
      2. When reviewing development applications, lane widenings shall be required to achieve the standards in section 1.1 as measured from the lane centreline.